The National Planning Policy Guidance has some useful nuggets. There has always been a question about how planning obligations should be secured where the local authority is the main land owner. People have played games with unilateral obligations, with allowing the general public to enforce via “third party rights” clauses and having agreements with Counties in two tier areas.
The NPPG now makes it clear that it is acceptable for planning conditions to prevent development unless a planning agreement has been entered into. The condition must meet the Newbury tests and, importantly, must be precise. In practice this means that the terms must have been largely settled by the grant of permission. Now that DCLG have endorsed this approach it will make it far easier to deal with regeneration schemes and strategic sites where not all of the land can be bound at the outset.
Less helpfully, the NPPG repeats the advice that conditions should not require the payment of contributions. This seems to be hair-splitting given the acceptance that planning agreements can, effectively, be required by condition. It would also be far more transparent in terms of the requirements of a consent. Such conditions are used in Ireland and Scotland – why not in England?